The central theme of today’s readings is gratitude – in particular, the expression of gratitude God expects from us. Today’s Gospel story of ‘the forgetful lepers presents a God Who desires gratitude from us for the many blessings we receive from Him, and Who feels pain at our ingratitude.
Scripture lesson summarized: Naaman, the Syrian military commander in the first reading, was an outcast, not only because of his leprosy, but because he was also a non-Israelite, a pagan. But he returned to thank the Prophet Elisha for curing his leprosy, and as a sign of his gratitude, transferred his allegiance to the God of Israel.
St. Paul, in the second reading, advises Timothy to be grateful to God even in his physical sufferings and amid the dangers associated with spreading the Word of God because God will always be faithful to His people.
Today’s Gospel story tells us of a single non-Jewish leper (a “Samaritan, considered by the Jews as heretic”), who returned to thank Jesus for healing him, while the nine Jewish lepers went their way. Perhaps, they were under the false impression that healing was their right as God’s “chosen people.” So, they hurried off to obtain health certificates from the priests. “Where are the other nine?” Jesus asked the returned Samaritan and the crowd rhetorically. Today’s readings also remind us that Faith and healing go hand in hand. It was Faith that prompted Naaman to plunge himself into the waters of the Jordan River, and it was Faith in Jesus which prompted the lepers to present themselves first to Jesus and then to the priests. The readings also demonstrate the universal love of God for all peoples, including the Samaritans (whom the Israelites hated), and the pagans, Israel’s enemies, whom Naaman represented.
1) We need to learn to be thankful to God and to others. We can express our gratitude to our loving and providing God by offering grace before meals and by allotting a few minutes of the day for family prayer. Let us show our gratitude to our forgiving God by forgiving others and by loving God in them, radiating His love, mercy, and compassion to all we encounter, including our families and friends. It is by taking good care of our old and sick parents that we express our gratitude to them for the loving sacrifices they have made in raising us.
2) We need to celebrate the Holy Eucharist as the supreme act of thanksgiving: The Greek word “Eucharist” means profoundly religious and thoroughly spiritual “thanksgiving.” When we celebrate Holy Mass together, we are thanking God for giving us the great gift of His Son in the Holy Eucharist so that we can share His Divine life and recharge our spiritual batteries, and for giving us His teaching, guiding, strengthening Holy Spirit. We express our thanks to God as a parish community by sharing our time, talents, and material blessings in the various ministries and services of the parish and by our active participation in its outreach programs in the community.